(File photo)

MANILA – The House of Representatives has urged the Department of Education (DepEd) and the Commission on Higher Education (CHED) to support public school teachers and college faculties amid the pandemic through the provision of personal protective equipment, disinfectants, tablets or laptops, and broadband subscription.

During Wednesday night's plenary session, the chamber adopted House Resolution 2471, which seeks to promote the safety of teachers and their students, as well as advance the capacities of teachers challenged by distance learning.

"In consideration of the probability of the continuing transmission of Covid-19, teachers and non-teaching personnel should be amply protected against the disease and should therefore be provided with the standard personal protective equipment based on the Alert Level raised by the Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases, such as face masks, face shields, and 70 percent ethyl alcohol," the resolution read.

It also stressed the need to provide tablets or laptops to support teachers in the transition to blended learning.

"Relative to distance learning, many teachers cannot afford new laptops and broadband connection because of economic reasons, coupled with the fact that many teachers have just one home computer that is being shared with other family members either for remote work or online classes," it said.

On Wednesday, DepEd Secretary Leonor Magtolis Briones authorized all regional directors to start the progressive expansion phase of face-to-face classes for both public and private schools.

President Rodrigo Duterte has approved the recommendation of the DepEd to expand limited face-to-face classes in areas under Alert Levels 1 and 2 by February, Malacañang said on January 18.

Briones proposed the “progressive expansion” of in-person classes in areas under Alert Levels 1 and 2 following the positive outcome of the pilot run from Nov. 15 to Dec. 22, 2021.

Pending the issuance of a revised joint memorandum for the expansion phase, the DepEd said current main protocols and standards “shall remain applicable as appropriate”, with the following main parameters for inclusion:
*Expansion schools have been validated as compliant with the standards of the School Safety Assessment Tool (SSAT).
*Schools must be located in areas under alert levels 1 and 2 based on the periodic risk assessment by the Department of Health.
*Schools may already include other grade levels based on the capacity of schools.
*Schools or Division must have secured the concurrence of the Local Chief Executive in the City or Municipality where the expansion school is located, and the schools must also have taken the proper coordination with their respective barangay officials.
*Students participating in the face-to-face classes must have the written consent of their parents.
*Schools are given flexibility in contact time for teaching and learning, provided that meals are not taken in school except during managed recess.
*Only vaccinated teachers may participate in the face-to-face classes, and vaccinated learners shall be preferred.

The DepEd regional directors have so far submitted a list of 6,686 schools nationwide that have passed the SSAT, of which 6,586 are public schools and 100 are private schools.

According to the DepEd, the schools are on their mid-year break and the pilot of face-to-face classes will resume on February 7 “but certain divisions may start on a later date following the class suspensions during the Omicron surge and on account of Typhoon Odette in certain affected areas.”

The Inter-Agency Task Force for the Management of Emerging Infectious Diseases earlier placed the National Capital Region and the provinces of Batanes, Bulacan, Cavite, Rizal, Biliran, Southern Leyte, and Basilan under Alert Level 2 beginning last February 1. (PNA)